2002 August 19 Links

(entry last updated: 2002-08-19 17:00:44)

I’ve been fuming all weekend since reading about the new tactic being tried by the record companies – forcing ISPs to block sites that offend the RIAA. I’m sure that there are lots of articles, but I needed to get Amy Harmon’s article from Saturday up ASAP. Illiad at UserFriendly, for example. Jonathan Zittrain and Ben Edelman’s research (a paper, a general article) takes on a heightened importance.

Update: Via Boing-Boing – an ISP has decided that, given that the RIAA is likely to hack their customers’ computers (c.f. Berman-Coble), the RIAA site will be blocked. From the announcement: "we feel the RIAA will abuse software vulerabilities in a client’s browser after the browser accesses its site, potentially allowing the RIAA to access and/or tamper with your data." Hah! However, once the message gets made and everyone gets their yucks, I hope they reverse the policy – it’s still evil to block like this.

A weblog discussion between Dave Winer and Doc Searls on the subject of Larry’s OSCON speech puts me back onto thinking about Charlie Nesson’s vision of creating v. consuming as the dominant Internet activity. Dan Gillmor has echoes of that discussion in his Sunday column,

Scott Adams takes up the Evan Brown case, sort of. The Boston Globe describes another copyright controversy brewing in the movie area.

Speaking of ILaw, Donna points out that Steve Levy was not just attending, but also collecting information for his current Newsweek article on blogging (see the third-to-last paragraph).

And, according to the BBC, I might be able to buy a DVD player with a clear conscience soon. But, The Register expresses my worst fears that I won’t be able to buy the computer I want by then. But John Perry Barlow is still a believer.

(12 items listed below)

  • The New York Times reports that the RIAA believes the DMCA gives them the power to control which sites anyone can access. And, given the deference the DMCA has received in the courts, they might win this one too!!

    On the other hand, Illiad believes that the RIAA has taken on more than they can chew, this time.

  • Judge Cooper has changed her mind, allowing users to enter the ReplayTV suit. An earlier article at CNet is also available. Slashdot has a discussion, as several of those allowed to join have been active Internet presences. Carrie Kirby’s write-up at SFGate is probably the most thorough.
  • Declan McCullagh argues that overly shrill complaints about the effects of the DMCA just undermine the argument over the very real problems with the law. Slashdot discusses: Debunking (some) DMCA Myths
  • A weblog discussion between Dave Winer and Doc Searls in the subject of Larry’s OSCON speech puts me back onto thinking about Charlie Nesson’s vision of creating v. consuming as the dominant Internet activity. See the cycle: Dave_1, Doc_1, Dave_2, now Doc_2. After reading these, I sent Dave an e-mail which included the following:

    However, it is also the case that Larry represents one particular extreme; one which the founding director of the Berkman Center has a different perspective on. Prof. Charles Nesson made a stab at presenting it at the Program, which went badly – he selected a poor strategy to get it across. But I think it’s a powerful set of ideas, and it’s one that suggests that you are doing more than just innovating without patenting.

    [editor’s note: reading this, I see that I am putting words in Charlie’s mouth here – he may not actually believe that Larry’s argument is “elitist,” but he does seem to believe that it’s doomed to be pessimistic because he fails to consider creativity.]

    Charlie’s basic point is that the reason that Larry’s story is so pessimistic is that, in the end, it’s a somewhat elitist Weltanschaung – you need to be pretty clever and educated about the technology to understand the threats he sees. Otherwise, you have to take his word for it – not something that a Rep. Coble, for example, is going to do, even if he is sympathetic to your views.

    Therefore, Charlie believes that the effective response to the threat is to get more and more people involved in the Internet as a place for creativity. Each person who becomes invested in the Internet as a platform for creativity is a person who will react negatively to ANY challenge to their ability to be creative, whether or not they appreciate the subtleties of Lessig’s argument.

    Charlie sees the answer as resting with educating more people to use the Internet as a place to create, rather than as a place to consume. And, I would argue, weblogs are certainly a way to make that happen.

    To see my notes, etc. on the Nesson argument, see these links from my small weblog efforts for the class:

    http://msl1.mit.edu/furdlog/index.php?wl_mode=more&wl_eid=46

    http://msl1.mit.edu/furdlog/docs/2002_07_03.html

    So, I think you’re doing more than just not patenting, IMHO!

    I got an e-mail from Dave saying that this e-mail gave him some ideas for this "rant." And here’s the next one from Doc.

  • The Evan Brown case gets picked up at kuro5hin, and Scott Adams dances around it
  • P. J. Connolly rails against the DMCA, using the SnoSoft case as an example.
  • Hiawatha Bray writes about the host of companies (MovieShield, ClearPlay, TVGuardian, and Clean Flicks) that exist to excise, bleep and otherwise shield viewers from the seamier parts of modern movies.
  • Dan Gillmor’s Sunday column has some interesting things to say about consumers v. customers on the Internet, and the copyright lobby.
  • The New York Times profiles the rise and fall of the BackStreet Boys – a look at record industry practices.
  • The BBC writes that, in an age where almost all DVD players can be modified to become multi-region players, region encoding is on the way out. Slashdot is not as sure.
  • Andrew Orlowski goes into overdrive, giving voice to everything that I fear most about Palladium in this article: The Stuckist Net – what is your post-Palladium future? (I had to hunt to find out what he means. Here’s The Stuckist Manifesto, although this PDF from the Stuckist Party is a little more on point.)
  • It’s a slow download, but John Perry Barlow refuses to believe the copyright cartel has a chance. See Slouching Toward Hollywood

2002 August 16 Links

(entry last updated: 2002-08-16 17:14:16)

Bruce Schneier’s latest Cryptogram has a focus on Palladium; what it is, etc. The summary: lots to like, but lots to be terrified of as well.

In a lighter note, Donna Wentworth picks on the latest software patent insanity.

And, darker notes from The Register.

And after yesterday’s links on California bill 1246, I missed this Reuters bit (at the NYTimes) saying that it was withdrawn yesterday! (Here’s the Billboard article)

And we close with another demonstration of the conflict between rhetoric and reality.

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2002 August 15 Links

(entry last updated: 2002-08-15 17:15:14)

Looks like the summer heat has slowed down more than just life in Cambridge. So far today, I’ve only found an article at FindLaw. And Joan Jett has decided to take “matters into her own hands” when it comes to her out-of-print material.

A look at the Billboard news reveals that the fight over the so called ‘Seven Year Statute’ has heated up. And, a GigaLaw article suggests that the theories underlying the Gator complaint will make Lynx illegal. Also, the Hamidi v.Intel lawsuit got some ink in the WSJ. Finally (I have to leave for the day), Slashdot discusses how the common man responds to DRM; a Larry Lessig interview at Darwin Magazine; and an article by David Weinberger on DRM, also at Darwin.

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  • FindLaw’s Writ has a guest column from someone who’s much more of an optimist than I. Peter Yu asserts that the fact that the copyright owners are fighting a multi-front war rather than focusing on pirates, they are bound to fail.

    I’m less sanguine. I think they have managed to make it a single front war – as far as they are concerned, everyone who opposes them is a pirate. And they’ve managed to convert a sizeable fraction of the population to their perspective.

  • Billboard reports that Joan Jett is putting her out-of-print albums up on the Internet. At $10 a pop, it’ll be interesting to see how she does. Her site is kind of funky, particularly the fact that she publishes her own tablatures.
  • The negotiations to settle on text for California state bill 1246 [PDF] (Recording Artists Coalition description) have fallen apart, leading to heated words. This is the statute that Courtney Love’s famous Manifesto addresses in part, although her legal challenge was overturned.
  • GigaLaw has an article, cited by PoliTech, dissecting the Gator lawsuit and speculating about its implications for the future of Internet advertising.
  • "Trespass to chattels" – a striking phrase I had never heard until ILaw 2002 – nor would I have understood the threat it represents in the digital age. Learn something about it in this article from The Wall Street Journal about Intel v. Ken Hamidi
  • Slashdot discusses a Q & A from The Guardian wherein a Windows Media Player user discovers that a hard disk reformat makes his restored files from a CD-R difficult (read: impossible) to play.
  • An interview with Larry Lessig in pure “Cassandra-mode” in Darwin Magazine
  • Also, a provocative piece on the how to solve the DRM mess: let the market do it within the following framework

    In lieu of a well-worked out program, here are Three Precepts of Digital Rights Management. Each rule supercedes the previous one.

    1. Companies that want to sell us works of creativity can do so with whatever enforceable licensing agreement they want.
    2. Fair use isn’t just protected but is expanded in the face of the new reality.
    3. The basic architecture of our computing and networking environment — which maximizes openness, connection and innovation — isn’t degraded.

2002 August 14 Links

(entry last updated: 2002-08-14 18:00:34)

So, we get some truly "Flash"y refutations of Declan’s position from Larry Lessig. And the Yankee Group predicts the future of P2P music sharing. With Dave Winer’s comments.

But something that really caught my eye was this article from today’s Boston Globe: Princeton says curiosity led to Yale files by Patrick Healy. This discussion of the penalties that Princeton plans to impose includes this extraordinary assertion:

In accessing the files of eight students who had applied to both schools, the officials yielded to human error, compounded by the temptations of the Internet, said Princeton’s president, Shirley M. Tilghman, as she described the results of the investigation at a news conference yesterday. (emphasis added)

"[T]emptations of the Internet?" What the heck is that supposed to mean?

Now, I am willing to admit that I may be getting a little paranoid here, but the continuing discussion of the power of rhetoric in the copyright debate has made me sensitive to some of the nuances in the general discussion of the Internet. As a result, this phrase jumped out, particularly in conjunction with the closing paragraph of this piece:

”One of the lessons of this experience is that even individuals with a high degree of sensitivity to ethical principles in traditional settings can fail to be equally sensitive when technology is involved, as when someone who would never open a sealed envelope addressed to another person enters a secured Web site,” Tilghman said.

"The technology made me do it" is going to be this person’s defense, supported by the institution that employs him? The idea that this updating of the "twinkie" defense is going to be employed is scary, in that it plays into what looks to be another dimension of the MPAA/RIAA rhetoric: the Internet is inherently lawless and unethical, so of course we are justified in taking whatever measures are necessary to clean the place up. And Declan’s position that one should just code more and more subversive stuff plays right into this perception.

Memes are scary things – once they take hold, there’s not much that can be done to displace them, except to start another, more compelling one. And, in America today, the "freedom" meme is not terribly robust.

(Note: Slate has a followup on the overall issue that makes a vitally important point that has not made the press, although it’s been a part of lunchtime discussion here at my lab.
Update: So does InfoWorld)

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2002 August 13 Links

(entry last updated: 2002-08-13 16:29:51)

The Register really sticks it to Microsoft today – the Palladium spin has by-passed the employment side of the biz, it appears. Forrester Research has a mixed message for the RIAA. And Declan McCullagh would rather code than lobby.

And I really hate seeing Microsoft use the phrase "Software Choice." Cory Doctorow’s recent posting is Slashdotted, but you can read the comments at least.

The Norwegians want a techie judge for Jon Johansen. Wonder if it’ll make any difference?

And Salon has an illuminating article for your diversion: The media titans still don’t get it

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2002 August 12 Links

(entry last updated: 2002-08-12 10:44:59)

Moving…. I hope I don’t have to do it again anytime soon!

Microsoft’s Software Choice gets dissected and responded to at The Register – and other inflammatory rhetoric there this week. Also, apparently the language in Alcatel’s employment contract gave them rights to ideas developed by an employee long before (12 years) he worked for them – a cautionary tale.

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2002 August 9 Links

(entry last updated: 2002-08-09 17:43:52)

Back at the office after a day spent moving to our new house! The most peculiar thing is that I’m exhausted today, even though the movers did all the hard work.

A small plug & caveat: we had a great crew of movers from Gentle Giant – everything one could ever hope for in movers. The most notable feature – because the client pays by the hour, the crew is clearly trained to run when not carrying stuff – up and down stairs, into the truck, whatever – they are never idle.

On the other hand, the front office of Gentle Giant (the people you have to go through to get a crew) have some serious problems. I don’t know if it’s just that they may have terrible information management or that the people who work there are incompetent. Either way, the screw-ups getting to the move were huge and I place the blame entirely on the front office. Long story short: hire Gentle Giant for a move, but get everything in writing from the front office.

On to today’s links…..

The FCC action yesterday gets attention all over. Charlie Cooper’s piece at CNet on “free content” got me to hunt up an article from my original ESD.10 links page by Michael Kinsley that is a little eerie to read nowadays. And Sony has new DRM tech.

And Robert X. Cringeley’s The Pulpit column tells an optimistic story. The closing long paragraph inadvertantly explains why it’s never going to happen without some big changes..

(6 items listed below)

  • Declan McCullagh explains the mixed blessing of the FCC requirement that all TVs of a certain size have digital tuners. As someone who is only a marginal cable user (I actually rely mostly on broadcast TV), this sounds like a boom for me. On the other hand, by adding this functionality, we have a new place to install DRM technologies. The New York Times also has an article, as does Wired – although I would have expected a better article from Brad King..
  • Slashdot has a discussion for those of us getting ready to move to DVDs and want a hacked/hackable box.
  • Charlie Cooper asserts that it’s about time people starting paying for Internet content (ZDNet version w/ TalkBacks). Somehow, I still think Michael Kinsley’s perspective from this old Slate article makes more sense. And his tagline for the article is even a little chilling today: "So maybe the Internet’s first great cliché had it exactly backward: Information has been free all along. It’s the Internet that wants to enslave it."
  • The India Times has an article by an improbably-named author on the subject of video CD piracy.
  • Read the press release, then check out the Slashdot discussion of a Sony DRM technology called OpenMG X. Who makes these names up, anyway?
  • Robert Cringely sees the future of mesh computing much as described by Yochai Benkler at ILaw 2002, and then torpedoes this entire vision with this paragraph:

    Think of it this way. I just bought a “Lord of the Rings” DVD at Fry’s Electronics for $16.95. That $16.95 has to support not only the movie production, but also an immense manufacturing, distribution, and marketing organization that at the end of the day probably yields two dollars or less in pure profit to the intellectual property owner. So why not cut out that manufacturing, distribution, and marketing operation — and its associated administrative overhead — and instead just hurl a copy of the movie onto the Net, let it propagate as demand dictates, with that same two dollars making its way back to the film makers from every subsequent owner?

    I thought he understood this problem, but he’s speaking seriously here, as the next paragraph says:

    That’s where we are headed, to a system where Microsoft doesn’t control access to media as much as content controls its own use, and only the content creators get paid. And when it all comes together a decade from now, we’ll see that for the very reasons I just described it was inevitable.

    Without some kind of rein on the institutions of control who depend upon the existing distribution infrastructure for survival, this “inevitable” future will be easily avoided, I fear.

2002 August 7 Links

(entry last updated: 2002-08-07 17:36:38)

I missed a really detailed article in the Sunday NYTimes Magazine on the making of a pop music product – an excellent read. Salon has a discussion of the changes in the indie promotion business. And the broadcast flag gets a look from the TiVo/ReplayTV context

The new edition of firstmonday is up with an article on the politics of P2P and copyright. ZDnet provides a program identifying the players in tomorrow’s FCC meeting on broadcast protection. The Register reports that Morpheus’ client will include McAfee security tools.

And I thought my draft had something original to say. Reading these Slashdot comments, I guess not. Glenn Harlan Reynolds has a relevant piece at TCS, with an innovative interpretation of the Biden agenda.

(8 items listed below)

  • Who’s That Girl? follows the development of Amanda Latona as the next music product. A look at how it’s done.
  • The music industry’s response to rising radio promotion costs is covered by Eric Boehlert at Salon.
  • And the broadcast flag’s effect on DVRs is explored at Wired.
  • At firstmonday: Rip, Mix, Burn: The Politics of Peer-to-Peer and Copyright Law. This is an ambitious article that tries to place the current copyright arguments within a workable political context and, if I read it correctly, to elevate the arguments above the sanctimony that both sides bring to the debate. While it is an interesting set of insights into the evolution of the debate, the conclusions are spare, and seem largely focused on the desire to elevate legal debates above the focused procedural and legislative plane that they currently occupy. How to accomplish this, however, is not explored.
  • ZDNet’s Jim Hu gives us a detailed rundown of the players in advance of tomorrow’s FCC meeting to discuss broadcast protection. The CNet version of this article has a lot of relevant articles linked in the sidebar.
  • In Tipping Their Hand, Glenn Harlan Reynolds argues that all this DRM stuff is just the record companies trying to maintain control by locking others out. By getting the technology companies to require DRM-only players, they can force independents to work through record companies just to get a watermark that will make their MP3s playable – even if the independent just wants to give the content away!
  • McAfee’s SecurityCenter will be a part of the Morpheus client.
  • A new mod-chip for the X-box is getting some attention.

Is DRM “Inevitable?” — DRAFT

(entry last updated: 2002-08-06 18:09:16)

(I’m off to a meeting, so I need to add some links to this – but I wanted to get the draft up before I head out. Comments welcomed – today’s links are in the next entry)

(Sorry – that was rude to the RSS feed collectors – see more below)

The latest round of discussions at the Internet Law H2O/Rotisserie has revolved around Palladium as a topic, focusing on its implications for the Internet. As good listeners to what we learned at ILaw, the comments so far have centered on two themes: (1) Palladium/DRM represent a change in the architecture of the Internet in ways that may adversely effect creative work and (2) Palladium/DRM is inevitable.

I am not in disagreement with the first of these themes, but the assertion of the inevitability of Palladium/DRM bespeaks a set of assumptions that I believe should be exposed to some reconsideration.

As I understand the argument that is presented to defend the inevitability of Internet/computer DRM, the major providers of music and movie/video content will never make their content available over the Internet without the protections that a digital rights management regime provides. Valenti of the MPAA and Rosen of the RIAA have repeatedly asserted that, in the face of expected and rampant piracy, respectively, the Internet will not be embraced by the movie and music industry without the imposition of hardware and software restrictions that will guarantee their “property” rights.

OK- I can understand that position. Essentially, what they are saying is that, if they use the Internet to distribute content digitally, then they will lose control over that content, and it will be hard for them to make money. I can see how that would be the case. Litigation is expensive and time consuming, and the uncertainties will make it hard for them to raise the capital necessary to run an Internet distribution network.

But here’s the key question: So what? Last time I looked, there wasn’t anyone forcing the MPAA and the RIAA to use the Internet for distribution of their product. If they don’t want to participate, they certainly don’t have to. If they don’t want to put their content on the Internet, they can continue to run their businesses using their traditional distribution channels.

But that’s not what they want either! Like everyone else, they recognize that digital distribution is the key to reduced operating costs. The CD and the DVD show that they “get” digital distribution. The problem they face is that, on one hand, if they use the Internet to save on distribution costs, they run the risk of reduced profitability through the loss of control. On the other hand, if they eschew the Internet, then they run the risk of losing profits because of higher distribution costs — and, they also face the long-term risk that someone else will figure out how to profitably exploit the reduced distribution costs of the Internet, driving them out of business altogether.

A nasty quandry for them. So, the solution is to get us to pay to make the Internet safe for their business model by purchasing new hardware that limits our ability to use digital data. And, since there’s no value proposition for this, they elect to go outside the market and get these restrictions legislated.

Here’s a proposed analogy. Suppose there’s a standing lunchtime basketball game at the local gym. People show up, teams are picked, and games are played on a regular basis. The games get bigger, and start to attract some of the local talent. The level of play improves, players learn new skills and get more competitive. A cooperative community develops where everyone gets something – skills, exercise, outlets. Then, one day, a retired NBA player shows up and wants to play – he needs the exercise and his knees won’t let him play one-on-one anymore – he needs a team game. Everyone is thrilled – by playing with him, they will learn more, and he will get the standard benefits – exercise, team play, etc. But, after the first game, the retired pro argues that a lot of fouls went unpunished because the current system is based on players calling fouls on each other. He says that he won’t play any more games until a referee is brought in — at the expense of the other players. What happens?

Right – the retired pro goes home. The games go on as before.

And, as long as the RIAA and the MPAA want us to pay these egregious prices, in both dollars and freedom, for the referee, they can go play elsewhere as far as I’m concerned.

2002 August 6 Links

(entry last updated: 2002-08-06 18:31:09)

I have fallen a bit behind, I see. Moving is incredibly time consuming, and I lose my home broadband connection today for a while – so I have to steal what time I can during working hours.

As has been noted, HP has dropped their DMCA threat against SnoSoft. The latest security updates for Windows XP insist on the right to install software without the user’s knowledge – again. Bruce Sterling challenges the open source community.

Bruce Bollier’s article summarizing the key points of his book Silent Theft gets commentary. Tom Bell tries to challenge the “property” rhetoric at TechCentral Station.

Donna Wentworth points to a number of important links: Loyola at Los Angeles’ Eldred site; an interesting twist on copyright in Egypt; and Doc Searls’ puts in his thoughts on copyright rhetoric, too.

Ed Foster at InfoWorld has a question for Charles Sims.

And I’m trying to compose something that came out of the latest Rotisserie discussion at H2O…..

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